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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Baderfly Effect

The more straightforward aspects of a baseball game don’t require much explanation. Slugger Pete Alonso hit a home run. Got it. Starter Jose Quintana didn’t walk anybody. Got it. Closer Edwin Diaz blew a save. Got it, though we wish we didn’t. Still, protagonists gonna protagonize.

The aspects of ballgame that keep a person engaged beyond the obvious amid 162 of them are when you observe that because this happened, this didn’t happen. Or maybe one “this” subtly led to another “this” that could have or would have been a whole other “this”. A little of this and a little that can really add up, like what they say about a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere and god-knows-what occurring as a result.

On Thursday night in Philadelphia, there was enough flapping in the field and on the basepaths and at the plate and on the mound to determine the outcome of the Mets’ 6-5 eleven-inning win. It could have easily gone differently. The Phillies could have won by one. Or the Mets could have won by several. Or maybe the Phillies could poured it on. We got the final we got. We’ll take it, of course.

I don’t know what caused the stomach bug that scratched Brandon Nimmo from an already announced lineup, but I do know that if a proverbial butterfly didn’t flap its wings to sideline Brandon, that DJ Stewart wouldn’t have started in his place. And if DJ Stewart didn’t start in his place, Stewart wouldn’t have been batting and singling in the sixth inning. And if Stewart hadn’t gotten on as he did with two out and the Mets ahead by two, Carlos Mendoza wouldn’t have pinch-run Harrison Bader for him.

Bader’s pinch-running assignment added up to nothing at first. There were two out, and a moment later, there was a third. But now Bader was in the game, playing center and shifting Tyrone Taylor to left. Taylor rather than Stewart thus makes a throw home in the bottom of the inning that a) doesn’t nail the sliding runner and b) allows runners who might have been on first and second to advance to second and the third had Taylor aimed for the cutoff man. The man on third then scores on a sac fly to tie a game the Mets led by a pair a couple of moments earlier. Does Stewart play it by the cutoff book if he’s still in there? Does Nimmo if he’s healthy? Does the second Phillie run find the opportunity to register?

Go ask a butterfly.

But we don’t have to dwell on a Met misjudgment because we can enjoy some good Met fortune. This is in the eighth, after the Phillies have taken the lead (not all good Met fortune is unalloyed). Taylor reaches bases on an error and steals second. Alonso walks. After two strikeouts, Bader strikes…pitcher Jeff Hoffman with a batted ball, which allows Taylor to score, Alonso to go from first to third and Bader himself to reach second. Would have somebody else engineered such a stream of circumstances? While you ask another butterfly, notice Alonso crossing the plate on a wild pitch. The Mets are ahead.

In the ninth, Diaz isn’t the Diaz we thought we knew yet still (I hope) love, and the Phillies knot things again. No scoring occurs in the tenth. The 4-4 game, including its unearned-runner mishegas, moves to the eleventh. J.D. Martinez leads off with an RBI single, because that happens in extra innings. That much is easily understood since 2020. Martinez knocking in a runner from second is graspable, too.

Then we’re back to Bader, the pinch-runner for the left fielder who wouldn’t have played if not for the left fielder with the stomach bug. Bader doubles. It’s at least as big as Martinez’s single, even though it doesn’t knock in a run. It might have had there been a pinch-runner available, but the Mets were playing with a three-man bench, and all Mendoza had left to run for Martinez was his backup catcher, so no dice. Yet it was critical that J.D. got to third, which Harrison made happen, because after two more Met strikeouts, Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado uncorked a wild pitch, which was enough to bring Martinez home with a second eleventh-inning run. Connoisseurs of contemporary extras comprehend two runs in the top of an inning after the ninth is exponentially better than just one run.

In the bottom of the eleventh, Jake Diekman gave up one run — but not two. One we could handle, thanks to what the pinch-runner did with the bat twice. Sometimes a player comes off the bench and does something outstanding. Bader came off the bench to do one thing and wound up doing two things that had nothing to do with that one thing, and it made all the difference.

The previous pinch-runner to make an offensive impact with his lumber rather than his fee, if you can think back this far, was Nimmo, on Sunday. What Bader did, while not as definitive as Brandon’s Esix Snead-style walkoff homer, was pretty rare in Met annals. Only seven Mets have entered a game as a pinch-runner and proceeded to connect for two hits and drive in a run or more. The only one to knock a teammate home twice was utilityman extraordinaire Bob Bailor. On June 3, 1983, Frank Howard’s very first game as interim manager (directly after George Bamberger quit to, as Bambi put it, go fishing), Hubie Brooks started at third at Los Angeles. He led off the visitors’ sixth with a single, but had to leave the game with a bruised knee after tripping over first base.

Enter Bailor, who promptly stole second, advanced on Darryl Strawberry’s groundout to short, and came home on George Foster’s single to right. That’s really all you can ask a pinch-runner to do. But Bob wasn’t done doing. He singled in a run in the seventh, then another in the ninth. With Bailor involved as much as he could be across four innings, the Mets won, 5-2, and got Hondo’s managerial tenure off to a successful start. And, one might wish to infer, incumbent Dodger manager Tommy Lasords witnessed all Bailor was capable of and began hatching the germ of an idea that became trading Sid Fernandez (and Ross Jones) for Bob Bailor (and Carlos Diaz).

Fast-forward a little, and who’s that on the mound shutting down the Red Sox in the middle of Game Seven of the 1986 World Series? “Hey, ease up on the cause and effect,” a butterfly just texted me. For one night, it was enough that pinch-runner Bob Bailor came to the Mets’ rescue in ways that transcended running for Hubie Brooks. And for another night, let’s be glad Harrison Bader was the right Met in the right place at the right time.

5 comments to The Baderfly Effect

  • LeClerc

    Interesting info brought up by Diaz after the game:

    He missed the 2023 season – the season where the pitch clock was introduced.

    The pitch clock has gotten into his head – which may account (somewhat) for his recent sub-par performances.

    Adjust Edwin – adjust!

  • open the gates

    Edwin Diaz – he puts the “agonize” in “protagonize “ (love that word, by the way).

    Whether it’s the pitch clock, or his losing a couple MPH off his pitches, he’s definitely got something in his head. Hope he works it out.

    PS – my kid was at the game last night with a friend. Nothing like being two Met fans in enemy territory with the Mets eking out a seat-of-the-pants victory. Nicely done!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Love the “pinch runner drives in runs” study. Which boiled down to Bob Bailor. Wow.